Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene

WED, FEB 4, 2015 (59:20)

Weeds. Bed bugs. Gonorrhea. Salamanders. People. All are evolving, some surprisingly rapidly, in response to our chemical age. Emily Monosson, toxicologist and author of Unnatural Selection, shows how our drugs, pesticides, and pollution are exerting intense selection pressure on all manner of species. And we humans might not like the result. When our powerful chemicals put the pressure on to evolve or die, beneficial traits can sweep rapidly through a population. Species with explosive population growth—the bugs, bacteria, and weeds—tend to thrive, while bigger, slower-to-reproduce creatures, like ourselves, are more likely to succumb. Exploring contemporary evolution, Monosson examines the species that we are actively trying to beat back, from agricultural pests to life-threatening bacteria, and those that are collateral damage—creatures struggling to adapt to a polluted world, and shows how environmental stressors are leaving their mark on plants, animals, and possibly humans for generations to come.

+ BIO: Emily Monosson

Emily Monosson is an environmental toxicologist, writer, and consultant. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, author of Evolution in a Toxic World: How Life Responds to Chemical Threats, and editor of Motherhood: The Elephant in the Laboratory. A diversity of past research experience on the health and environmental impacts of contaminants, from nanoparticles to organochlorines and personal health care products, has laid the groundwork for Monosson?s current academic interest ? investigating the evolutionary history of the toxic response. Monosson is Associate Editor of The Encyclopedia of Earth. She publishes in academic journals and has contributed to publications including The Los Angeles Times and American Scientist. Her interest in increasing public awareness about the role of toxics in the environment and the importance of science education has led to her service on the Gill-Montague School Committee and on the board of the Montague Reporter, where she occasionally contributes as a writer.

Arnold Arboretum